For family, for country, for the future

For family, for country, for the future

Luis Pereira helps organize an annual recruitment retreat for Hispanic and Latino high school students who want to learn more about STEM fields. Photo by Sam O’Keefe.

Nearly everything Luis Pereira does, he does for future Hispanic college students, especially his four-year-old brother, Johann.

“I want my little brother to know, ‘You can do it; you can go to college,’” he says. “One of my passions is being a role model for my little brother; 15 years from now, I want to be visiting S&T with him.”

Pereira, a senior in computer science from Sedalia, Mo., transferred to Missouri S&T from State Fair Community College in fall 2013. The first in his family to attend college, he wants to be an example of the opportunities Hispanic students have in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.

He helps organize ¡Sí Se Puede!, an annual weekend retreat for Hispanic and Latino high school students who want to learn more about pursuing a college education in a STEM field, ideally at S&T. Through information sessions and hands-on workshops, students explore career options and learn what college life is really like.

“We tell them about how awesome our university is,” Pereira says.

Last year, four high school students who attended ¡Sí Se Puede! enrolled at S&T this semester. “It’s pretty exciting,” Pereira says. “It makes you feel proud knowing that those students came to S&T through ¡Sí Se Puede!”

He says student organizations and events like ¡Sí Se Puede! are essential in recruiting Hispanic students to STEM fields.

“Within the Hispanic community, especially if your parents haven’t gone to school, you don’t know anything about college,” Pereira says. “Like in my case, my senior year (of high school) I didn’t pay attention to visiting schools, trying to decide which one I should pick, what I should do.”

Luis Pereira with EWB

Luis Pereira, left, and Cathryn Pherigo, a senior in chemical engineering, attach a flow meter to a water well in the small village of Santiago, Honduras, during an Engineers Without Borders trip to the Central American country in May.

In January, Pereira plans to return to Honduras for a third time with Engineers Without Borders. He serves as translator for the team, which is trying to bring clean drinking water to Santiago, a small town in the Central American country.

Pereira, who lived with his grandmother in Honduras until he was 12, says he remembers calling American volunteers in Honduras “gringos” when he was a child. “I never imagined I was going to be a gringo,” he says, laughing. “I’m so proud of being a gringo, coming back to my country and helping.”

This year’s ¡Sí Se Puede! will be held Oct. 30 to Nov. 2. For more information about the retreat and to apply to attend, click here. Flights from Missouri to Honduras can be expensive. To help fund Pereira’s next trip with Engineers Without Borders, please visit his fundraising page.